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Yacht Club Kids

On a recent
Saturday morning a fleet of Optimists set sail from Cowpet Bay on St. Thomas to
nearby Christmas Cove on Great St. James. Manning the helms were a bunch of
tiny sailors.

“I did the
main sheet and my brother Daniel had the tiller,” said 6-year-old Jonathan
Qualls with a big smile. “In the middle of the ocean it was very wavy.
The instructors were on dinghies and told us
what to do–it was fun.”

Qualls and
his brother are part of the Youth Sailing Program at the St. Thomas Yacht
Club.Every Saturday about 60 kids,
ages 5 to 14, get together to learn everything about sailing, from tying knots,
to water safety, to trimming sail.

“They all
of sudden have a sense of independence.
They’re out on a boat by themselves, they’re in control.
It’s amazing to see when they get over that
little hump of apprehension and get out there,” said Doug McLean, organizer of
the Youth Sailing Program at the St. Thomas Yacht Club.

Twelve
instructors, half of whom are U.S. Sailing Certified, do instruction both on
the beach and in the water.All
students must wear life jackets and pass a standard U.S. swimming test, and
then comes the first lesson in sailing.

“We teach
them how to capsize the boat because we have to teach them how to right the
boat.They like that better than
sailing,” said McLean.But soon the
thrill of capsizing is overtaken by something new. “In the intermediate classes
we introduce racing.The kids who like
racing become less inclined to capsize.”

The spring
semester of sailing will start up in January. Classes are held every Saturday
at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.There are adult
classes as well.Call 775-6320 for more
information.

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